'Senna was the greatest driver ever and when someone like him is killed you have to ask yourself what is the point of it all,' he said. Rubens Barrichello, Senna's countryman who survived a horrific accident at Imola on Friday, said: 'I lost an idol and a friend.'
Leading figures in the sport were understandably keen that all the lessons possible should be learned from the tragedy. 'There is no way to explain what has happened, but we have to learn from it,' Michael Schumacher said.
Jackie Stewart, three times a world champion himself, made an immediate call for the drivers to band together in a drivers' association as had happened in his time. 'They will then be able to represent themselves against sports authorities and, united, they could refuse to drive on a bad circuit.'
The four-times world champion, Alain Prost, said he had tried to form a drivers' union, without success. 'Many drivers did not want to listen,' he said. 'You also have to take into account team chiefs, the sporting powers and commercial interests. There has been a total degradation in relations between drivers and the Establishment.'
Ironically, Lauda had been speaking to Senna only yesterday morning about the issue, following Saturday's death of Roland Ratzenberger. 'I told him that as the No 1 driver and a world champion, it was up to him to work at making the sport safer,' Lauda said. 'He completely agreed but unfortunately he cannot do anything now.'
For Mark Blundell, one of the new generation of drivers, it was the first experience of the death of a Formula One colleague. 'When things like this happen it naturally shakes you but in the end either you want to be a racing driver or you don't. That's what we all have to face up to.'Reuse content